Can Any Big Ten Team beat Ohio State this Year?

braxton-miller-ohio-stateLast year was a perfect start to the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State.The Buckeyes went 12-0, capping their undefeated season with a 26-21 win over rival Michigan. Had it not been for a one-year ban from postseason play, they could’ve made a run at the BCS title.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s scary for Big Ten opponents to think that OSU returns a good number of their offensive starters. This is nearly the same offensive unit that ranked 10th nationally with 242.3 rushing yards per game, and scored 37.2 PPG.

Star quarterback Braxton Miller is back after a season in which he passed for 2,039 yards and 28 TDs, and rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 TD’s. The junior will be the unquestioned leader of this offense and a major contender for the Heisman.

A couple of Miller’s favorite targets are back this year too, with Corey Brown (60 receptions, 669 yards, 3 TDs) and Devin Smith (30 rec, 618 yds, 6 TDs) leading the way. Tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett should also play a big role in the passing game.

carlos-hyde-running-backThe running game should once again be good too, with Carlos Hyde (970 rushing yards, 16 TD’s) anchoring the attack. But Hyde will serve a three-game suspension because of a nightclub altercation, which means Buckeye fans can expect to see plenty of Jordan Hall (5.4 YPC) and Bri’onte Dunn (5.3 YPC) in the early going.

The big question heading into this Big Ten season will be how well Ohio State can replace their defensive losses. They lost eight starters from last year’s squad, which ranked 14th nationally in rushing defense (116.1 YPG allowed). Meyer hit on this topic when he said, “Defense is where the issues are. We lost our entire front seven. I believe we recruited well.”

Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier is one key returner from this unit, and he racked up 115 tackles and three forced fumbles last year. Safety Christian Bryant and cornerback Bradley Roby are also going to play big roles for the Buckeyes’ defense this season. The latter is one of the nation’s top corners, having attained Second-Team All-America status in 2012. But like Hyde, Roby must serve a one-game suspension thanks to an off-field incident.

Despite all of the losses, OSU ranks second in the preseason pool, behind only Alabama. But this certainly doesn’t assure them of any waltz to the national title game. After all, the Big Ten boasts plenty of other strong teams besides just the Buckeyes.

james-white-wisconsinThe tough teams that Ohio State will have to contend with start in Madison, where Wisconsin is coming off back-to-back Big Ten championships. The Badgers need to replace Monte Ball, but their running game should be just as strong as ever with James White and Melvin Gordon carrying the pigskin. Plus their stout offensive line should make the transition much easier.

Northwestern should be a surprise contender since they have a very strong offense. Senior running back Venrick Mack will be all over the field for the Wildcats since he not only runs the ball, but also returns punts and kicks. QB Kain Colter should also have a strong year.

Assuming neither of these teams can knock off OSU, Michigan will be waiting for them at the end of the season. They won’t have speedster Denard Robinson leading the offense any longer. But QB Devin Gardner is hoping that he can keep the chains moving for the Wolverines when they face Ohio State.

Seeing as how the Buckeyes won half of their games last season by 7 points or less, we should be in for plenty of thrilling contests in Columbus. And if OSU can find a way to continue grinding these games out, they could be headed for a chance at the 2013 BCS Championship.

College Football Power Rankings for Nov. 15th, 2012

Just when it looked like nobody would tarnish Alabama’s undefeated season, they drop a stunner to Texas A&M and send our power rankings into a frenzy. Okay, so it’s not that much of a frenzy because three other top unbeatens survived another week without losing. However, it sure was interesting finding a spot for both Alabama and Texas A&M following last week’s upset.

1. Oregon (10-0) – The rest of the season is going to get tougher for Oregon because of both injuries and their schedule (Stanford, Oregon St., Pac-12 South champ). But for right now, we can firmly say that the Ducks are the best team in college football after a stomping of Cal.

Last Game: 59-17 win over California
Next Game: vs. Stanford

2. Kansas State (10-0) – After an injury scare with QB Collin Klein, the Wildcats appear to be alright since their top playmaker took the field against TCU. Seeing as how their defense keeps shutting down opponents, Kansas State is perfectly balanced on both sides of the ball.

Last Game: 23-10 win over TCU
Next Game: at Baylor

3. Notre Dame (10-0) – There’s no beauty in the way Notre Dame wins each week. But the key is that they do win each week thanks to a dominating defense. Assuming either Oregon or Kansas State loses before the end of the regular season, the Irish could be playing in the national title game.

4. Alabama (9-1) – Based on their performance through the first nine games of the year, we can’t drop the Tide too low following a single loss. But with the season nearing an end and three undefeated teams still left, Alabama may be left out of the national title picture.

Last Game: 29-24 loss to Texas A&M
Next Game: vs. Western Carolina

5. Georgia (9-1) – The Bulldogs look poised to meet Alabama in the SEC Championship game if they can get through their next two games unscathed. Depending upon how things go with the unbeatens, the SEC Championship could decide who goes to the BCS title game.

Last Game: 38-0 win over Auburn
Next Game: vs. Georgia Southern

6. Texas A&M (8-2) – Following an extremely tough road win at Bryant-Denny Stadium, some might argue that the Aggies should be ranked ahead of Alabama. However, we’re already stretching things enough by ranking A&M over two teams that beat them earlier (LSU and Florida). In any case, congratulations to the Aggies for their HUGE win!

Last game: 29-24 win over Alabama
Next game: vs. Sam Houston State

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0) – Despite being undefeated at this point, many experts are putting Ohio State down as an underdog against Wisconsin this Saturday. It could all come down to how well OSU linebackers Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier can shut down Montee Ball and the Badgers run game.

Last game: 52-22 win over Illinois
Next Game: at Wisconsin

8. LSU (8-2) – Unfortunately for LSU, there’ll be no BCS or SEC Championship games in the near future. However, they could certainly land an at-large BCS bowl bid by winning their final two games against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Sure this is no slam dunk, but we definitely like the Tigers chances.

Last Game: 37-17 win over Mississippi State
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss

9. Oklahoma (7-2) – Earlier in the year, it looked as if the upcoming Oklahoma-West Virginia game would have national title implications. But now it’ll merely be a game between two good teams. Actually, the Sooners are a VERY good team which is why we definitely like them to win on the road.

Last Game: 42-34 win over Baylor
Next Game: at West Virginia

10. Florida State (9-1) – The Seminoles aren’t getting much respect outside of the ACC since many experts don’t even consider them a top 10 team. However, we like them better than the fellow 9-1 Florida Gators, which have looked terrible in three straight games. Back to FSU, it’s sad that they aren’t really playing for a chance at the national title with just one loss. But they can still get an at-large BCS bid and beat up on another major conference to prove their point.